THE OBSERVER

It’s her or chaos

We need outstanding leaders for the United States of Europe

Her is Theresa May, and the political choice facing the British today is either to leave the EU under the PM’s formula —which Westminster has rejected twice— or to defer Brexit, a move that would require the agreement of all 27 members and might leave the UK in limbo for another two years while the country finds its way out. It’s her or chaos, if you’ll excuse the repetition. This week has seen British politics hit an all-time low in the decline triggered by Brexit, the process where the UK is mired. Brexit is conditioned by the lies and the hubris of an irresponsible, opportunistic political class that promised a painless exit from the EU, the institution which they grotesquely portrayed as the source of all evils during the referendum campaign. May has had a heart-stopping week in which she has narrowly averted both a no-deal Brexit —an option that can only be favoured by the utterly irresponsible— and Parliament taking over Brexit in a vote which she won by a margin of two.

Even though May’s plan has garnered greater support in parliament since the first vote (149 nays last week down from 230 in January), the PM is a dead woman walking who refuses to step down, even though she is no longer trusted by her own cabinet, her party and the Tory MPs. Her politics is about desperately trying to control a majority dominated by about seventy Brexiteer MPs, led by Jacob Rees-Moog, plus the ten DUP representatives from Northern Ireland.

Nevertheless, Theresa May will try to get one last vote yet, once she has managed to wrangle an extension of the Brexit calendar from the European authorities. The UK will only be allowed to remain in the EU until July, when the new parliament elected in the European polls between May 23 and 26 will be inaugurated. The UK is not expected to hold European elections and it would be unreasonable for a country to retain its vote and veto powers over the basic decisions of a club which it desperately wishes to leave. Likewise, the EU is not prepared to consider a lengthy extension unless there are guarantees of an agreement from London.

The way out of this dead end is necessarily upwards, as digging a deeper hole does not seem to be the most dignified solution. May’s resignation would be most welcome and would provide a fleeting sense of retribution and satisfaction. Yet we cannot rule out the possibility of a new Tory leader who pursues an ever harder Brexit, as there is still the fantasy that Brexit is a brilliant but poorly executed plan, rather than a political monster at which all frustration is directed and all fingers are pointed.

A reliable, stable majority that blurred party lines would need to be secured in the Commons. The rift knows no party boundaries and the solutions to the chaos demand a second referendum that sanctions a new consensus in Britain where the red lines are shifted.

Europe is going through a rough patch and there is still a need for a new project beyond Macron’s minimum wage stunt, a project that reaches beyond the current economic and monetary union. That’s why in Sunday's edition ARA answers the questions: who is thinking Europe? And who is listening?

Europe needs a new joint agenda beyond the monetary policy and the single market. It needs an integrated democracy that reaches beyond the shared values and democratic practices to share a tax policy and strengthened cooperation. It needs an immigration policy that offers a generous control of Europe’s external borders, while preserving the Schengen space and the free circulation of citizens. The EU cannot be completely permeable, but obviously it must welcome the migrants that it can humanely afford to, given the economic and demographic pressure in Africa.

Politics is increasingly a transnational affair and the EU can become stronger on immigration, the international economy, finance, security, defence, the environment and pollution control. To do that we need to have outstanding leaders for the United States of Europe, whose greatest enemies can be found in central Europe and the widening rift within us. The prime ministers of Hungary (Viktor Orbán) and Poland (Mateusz Morawiecki are watching from the inside how the termites are eating away at the foundations of the Union and they will have to be dealt with. Europe is going through a very important time and it remains a reality and a project worth standing up for with passion.